Accidents and emergencies happen everywhere in the world. But thanks to Africa’s tech entrepreneurs, you may find yourself hoping that should disaster befall you, you’re in Africa, and able to make use of the brilliant innovations the continent has to offer. Here, Disrupt Africa highlights five African emergency response startups saving lives and homes through the innovative use of tech.
South African startup Lumkani is on a mission is to address the challenge of shack and slum fires in urban informal settlements in South Africa and across the globe.
Lumkani’s fire detection system consists of heat detectors for individual homes, which ring to alert the family when a fire is detected. However, the system goes further – if the family is not able to quickly act to extinguish the fire, the detectors use transmission technology to trigger all devices in a 40 metre radius, creating a community-wide alert to extinguish the fire, stop the spread, or evacuate the area. The startup currently has devices in over 7,000 homes.
The startup has received early acclaim, last year winning US$75,000 at the global Chivas Regal The Venture competition; listed among 46 finalists of Design to Improve Life’s global INDEX design awards, as well as among 10 nominees for the African Innovation Foundation’s (AIF) Innovation Prize Award (IPA).
Further innovation is also afoot, with Lumkani set to launch shack fire insurance in Johannesburg in August.
South African startup CrashDetech is utilising mobile technology to save lives in the event of a car accident, having designed a smartphone app which detects a crash, pinpoints exact location and immediately dispatches the nearest ambulance.
Launched at the end of 2015, CrashDetech uses smart drive-detection technology to automatically monitor a user’s trips. The startup has developed a proprietary algorithm which auto-detects a serious car crash using the sensors on a phone, detecting the impact and g-force consistent with a crash.
Once it has detected a crash, the app is able to pinpoint the exact location of the crash, dispatch the nearest ambulance to the scene and even supply paramedics with the medical information of the smartphone owner.
While a number of telematic companies provide crash detection capabilities, these require vehicles to be installed with a hardware device. CrashDetech differentiates itself by only requiring a user to have a smartphone.
Initially self-funded, an investor quickly came onboard to provide funding and access to key markets; while CrashDetech is also one of 27 global finalists for this year’s Chivas Regal’s The Venture competition, and will compete for a share of US$1 million in funding in July.
Stellenbosch-based startup Incipient Software Laboratories has developed an emergency response platform utilising the Internet of Things (IoT), in order to improve response times.
The Incipient system sees end-user apps, such as panic buttons, smoke alarms and collision detection apps, deployed on smart devices. The paid version of the app connects a user to professional response-providers, while the free version simply connects the user to his or her peers.
A server-side platform receives a distress signal and decides what to do with it, while also interfacing to third party components and systems such as the police, security firms and medical services. A response-provider app assists the response provider in navigating to the incident, through information it receives from the platform.
“On the service provider side we have an app running on tablets inside their vehicles, which receive the distress signal and directs the service provider to the incident, turn by turn. The most relevant informations is displayed to the driver so that he can make split second decisions while engaging,” founder and chief executive officer, De Wet du Toit, told Disrupt Africa.
The startup is also in the process of testing other features, such as collision detection for monitoring automobile accidents, smart-city integration, and operator-voice feedback.
Also from South Africa, e-health startup CenHealth is looking to improve medical emergency responses in the country, partnering emergency services provider ER24 to use technology to speed up emergency response times, aiming to close the gap between patient information and emergency services and provide paramedics with rapid access to lifesaving information.
CenHealth originally launched its app in 2015, claiming to be the most advanced public health record system in South Africa. The app allows users to keep an electronic version of their health records, storing information from weight and height to allergies and allowing South Africans to keep a health diary of all doctor appointments.
However, in December, CenHealth announced a partnership with ER24, allowing CenHealth users to access ER24’s pre-hospital emergency care, including emergency stabilisation, medical emergency care transportation by road and air to the nearest hospital and trauma assistance. The service works in conjunction with CenHealth’s emergency profile, through which users enter important details such as allergies, medication and next of kin – all of which help paramedics respond more speedily and accurately in the event of an emergency.
Born on the AMPION Venture Bus in West Africa last year, FindMe offers a web and mobile app that makes it simple and fast to create, describe and share a location with anyone – addressing the common addressing problems prevalent across Africa.
Users mark a location on a digital map within FindMe’s application, and receive a unique location code which can be customised with the user’s name or own title for any purpose. This code can then be shared easily with anyone through WhatsApp, SMS or email. FindMe hopes this will enable emergency services to find emergency situations more easily.
“Directions to find a place are usually given over the phone, resulting not only in inefficient processes, but in case of emergencies, even in lost of lives. As a child, I witnessed a fire incidence that burned down my neighbour’s house to ashes because the fire service couldn’t find their way to the house on time. Lives perish daily due to the inability of emergency services to find places on time in almost every mega city in Africa,” co-founder Joseph Zotoo explained to Disrupt Africa.
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